Is Honey Bee Poop?

Is honey bee poop?

Honey is not bee poop! Honey is the end product of flower nectar processed by Honey Bees through enzymatic reaction and dehydration. Bee poop is the non-digestible fiber in honey and pollen that bees eat as their only source of food. 

What Is Honey?

Honey is the end product of the symbiotic relationship between flowering plants and honey bees.
Honey bees gather the nectar from flowers. Honey bees store this nectar in a “second stomach” called a “crop” or “honey stomach”. The nectar mixes with enzymes in the bee’s crop as the bee flies around.
When the bee can no longer take on more nectar it heads back to the hive where it regurgitates the crop content into the mouth of another worker bee stationed within the hive. That worker bee then transports the regurgitated nectar and injects this mixture into a cell in the honey comb.
Once the mixture is in the honeycomb, other worker bees fan their wings until the mixture becomes a viscous thick dehydrated fluid.
When the mixture reaches a water content of 20% or less it is now called honey and worker bees seal off the honeycomb cell with wax for storage; it can last for millenniums!

What Is Bee Poop?

Honey Bee poop is the residual feces comprised of the indigestible fiber in the honey and pollen which is the sole food source of the Honey Bee.

Do Honey Bees Poop In Their Hive?

Only the Queen bee poops in the hive.
There is an entourage of worker bees that take care of the Queen bee, including cleaning up her poop.

What Is A Worker Bee?

Yes, honey bees have different jobs.
There are three types of honey bees:
Queen Bee
Worker Bee

A worker bee is the majority of newly born bees and their first job is to clean up their birth cell.
They have to work their way through several jobs before becoming a nectar gathering honey bee.

Where Do Honey bees Poop?

Normally honey bees will poop as they leave their hive, usually several yards away from the hive, however, after a long cold spell, they leave their hive with an urgency to relieve themselves, so they sometimes relieve themselves within the first 50 feet from the hive.
A honeybee can go a long time without pooping, up to many weeks.

Do Honey Bees Ever Get Diarrhea?

Yes, honey bees can get diarrhea and it can lead to the collapse of the bee colony.
There two causes of honey bee diarrhea;

  • Pathogens such as Nosema
  • A build up of fiber in the honey bee’s intestine.
How Do I Treat A Bee Hive With Signs Of Diarrhea?
  • Pathogens: Once the hive is infected there isn’t really much you can do but let it run its course. Some suggest treating the hive with Fumagillin but many experts now believe Fumagillin actually makes the disease worse. The current recommendations are PREVENTION, primarily by switching out the brood combs at least every three years.
  • Excessive Fiber In The Bee’s Gut: Over the cold months bees cannot make their usual “cleansing runs” and over time the fiber contained in the honey and pollen builds up in the honey bee’s gut. Once warmer weather appears the honey bee can drink too much water which binds with the fiber and the bulk causes the honey bee to have diarrhea.

Honey bees build up a need to defecate so on the first warm day when they can make their “cleansing run”, the normal defecation happens much more quickly as the bee leaves the hive. This pattern can easily be misdiagnosed as diarrhea.
The minimum temperature allowing a bee to fly is 55 degrees.

How Often Does A Honey Bee Poop?

In warm weather, a honey bee poops on its own specific biological needs by going on a “cleansing run”.
In cold weather, when it is too cold to go on their “cleansing run”, a honey bee can wait weeks before defecating, they will not willingly deficit inside the hive.
Over the cold weeks, honey bees keep their hive warm by essentially doing calisthenics in the hive to generate body heat. Many bees doing this at the same time is very effective at keeping the hive warm, however, the more active bees are, the more energy they expend, and the more food they need to eat.
Honey and pollen do contain fiber, and over time, without pooping, the bee can accumulate up to about 40% of body weight in gut fiber residue. When the bee drinks water, this fiber bulk can expand causing diarrhea.
Moral of this story: Keeping the bee hives as warm as possible in the cold months decreases the amount of callanetics the bees are required to do to keep the hive warm. This will result in less food the bee needs to eat and therefore less fiber intake by the honey bees.

What Does Normal Honey Bee Poop Look Like?

Under normal circumstances, even under the stress of “holding it in” for several weeks during the cold months, honey bees will go “cleansing runs” as soon as the weather is warm enough to go outside the hive. Bees will usually travel over 1,000 feet from the hive before they poop so you should not expect to see bee poop on or around the hive. Occasionally a cleansing run takes the bee back over the top of the hive and some honey bee poop on top of the hive may be visible.
Cars are a frequent place to see bee poop, (and clothes on a clothes line), that are in the takeoff and landing flight pattern of the honey bees. There will be very sticky yellow spots on cars and other items in the honey bee’s flight path. The flight path is subject to change depending on where the food source is located; bees fly from the hive directly to the food source.

Does Honey Bee Poop Smell?

Maybe, but most certainly if it is honey bee diarrhea!
The honey bee poop normally encountered is so small that most humans do not detect a noticeable smell.
However, if an outbreak of diarrhea infects the hive, taking the top off the hive clearly answers the question.
Some professional apiarists feel it is this foul odor of honey bee diarrhea poop that interferers with the hive’s ability to communicate with each other and leads to the collapse of the hive.

Does A Honey Bee Fart?

In the true sense of the word, probably not.
In humans, farts are the result of bacterial action on plant and meat digestion causing the creation of methane gas, a fact that allows the sometimes funny youtube videos of “lighting the fart”.
Honey bees do not eat meat or plant material, therefore, do not produce methane gas.
Honeybees eat nectar or honey for a carbohydrate source and pollen for a protein source. There is, surprisingly, fiber in the honey and pollen, therefore, honeybees do produce feces, sometimes called frass.
Some experts say as this fiber works its way through the honeybee’s digestive system it traps air bubbles that, when released, can emulate a fart. Other experts express doubts about this theory because a honeybee does not breathe in through its mouth or nose.

How Do I Get The Honey Bee Poop Off My Car?

Most experts concur, removing bee poop from a car ranges from “extra effort” to “very difficult” depending on two things:
What is the condition of the car surface?
How long has the bee poop been on the car?
Assuming the car is kept washed and waxed reasonable regularly, bee poop still requires extra attention as bee poop will survive most regular car washing, be it at home or at a car wash.

Honey bee poop has staying power.
First, wash your car as you would do normally.
Then spot treat the bee poop by spraying a cleaner such as EcoSmart onto a corner of a microfiber towel and spot treating the area using medium pressure to remove the bee poop.

For surfaces more weathered or the bee poop has been present for an extended period of time:
The most likely product to remove the bee poop might be a rubbing compound using the least abrasive compound that does the job.

Windshields and other car windows:
I personally just use a window paint removal razor tool and it comes right off.
Some recommend using 0000 steel wool on a wet window.

So the sagacious take away is:
Keep those cars cleaned and waxed! And if your car is in a bee flight path, expect this to be a regular problem.
The reason honey bee poop is so difficult to remove is that it contains some propolis; the substance honey bees produce to seal their hive from the outside weather. Propolis is very strong glue!

How Do I Get Bee Poop Off My Laundry?

Experts concur, removing bee poop from laundry is a very difficult at best. Those laundry stains might not only be poop, it may also be a pollen stains from all the pollen a bee would be carrying back to the hive.
Some of the best suggestions I have heard so far is:

  • Soak and scrub the stained area with isopropyl alcohol (wood or grain will work), use the highest percentage you can find. Then wash the item normally.
  • Nail polish has also been suggested, but remember, it is highly flammable so use with caution.

I hope this post was everything you ever wanted to know about bee poop and more

Happy beekeeping
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